Anne Notations

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Phil for President

Mayor Phil Hardberger, San Antonio, Texas

I have a new hero. His name is Phil Hardberger, and he is the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, a city that is opening its gymnasiums, homes, and schools to thousands of refugees from the nightmarish hurricane aftermath in New Orleans. Phil doesn't look like Superman or any of the Fantastic Four, but as far as I'm concerned he can throw on a cape and start leaping tall buildings any time he wants. He's the real deal, that rare bird of the early 21st century: a decisive, compassionate leader with his head on straight.

Aaron Brown of CNN was interviewing Mayor Hardberger last night, pushing him a little: How would San Antonio pay for all the generosity he had promised? Where would all those kids fit in the schools? Wouldn't it be a strain on the city and its residents?

Without a second's hesitation, the mayor replied that the good people of San Antonio would simply dig deep and come up with what was needed to help the hurricane victims. "I would be reluctant to turn anybody away who is hungry and hurt and has no place to go," he said. He was certain that his fellow citizens would "rise to the occasion and welcome our neighbors with open arms."

"We need to band together to give these people back the dignity that has been taken away from them," Hardberger said. "If they had jobs, they don't have jobs any more. Losing your job is a disaster in most families. They have also lost their homes and their personal possessions, and in many cases they only have the shirts on their backs. It is a cry for compassion and understanding from one human spirit to another, and we will not fail to respond the way we would want to be responded to."

Well, whaddya know: the Golden Rule in action. The mayor's voice was warm, confident, determined, and reassuring, and I almost howled with joy and relief. Here at last was a leader speaking and acting like a leader at a time of crisis, when we so sorely needed one. Phil might have been paraphrasing Emma Lazarus:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... "

"Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me."

Thank you, Mr. Mayor.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Adieu, New Orleans

Rescuers assist a family atop their swamped van after Hurricane Katrina.

City of jazz and jostling crowds,
Rich meals, poor shacks, brown river, revelry.
Balconies flaunting iron-lace petticoats,
And haunted mansions seen through moss-hung trees.

We can't go back to hear your wailing blues,
Won't glimpse strippers in bars on Bourbon Street.
Those dark men pushing handbills - "Come on in,
Best show in town! Free drink!" - Where might they be? ...
Heads in hands, on shanty roofs above the poison flood?
Gasping for breath inside the Superdome?
Guarding a loved one's corpse wrapped in a sheet?
Wading away with hope too faint to bear?

I gaze upon these scenes from New Orleans.
Dazed mothers fanning babies, fed on air ...
A husband stunned, his wife adrift - "I'm lost."
Tears flow and flow. There's water everywhere --
The levees broke. Anarchy and despair
Have murdered NOLA. Desolée, mon cher.

An exhausted deer, stranded by rising flood waters.